Jason Reynolds

Portrait Jason Reynolds
© Ben Fractenberg

The children’s and young adult author Jason Reynolds was born in 1970 in Oxon Hill, Maryland and studied literature and creative writing at the University of Maryland.
Together with the illustrator Jason Griffin, he made his début in 2009 with »My Name Is Jason. Mine Too«, a collage of poems and drawings about teenage friendship and young adults who go to New York together. In 2014 he published his first young adult novel »When I Was The Greatest« to critical acclaim. The story is set in New York and takes place in the disadvantaged inner city areas of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Through the perspective of the 15-year-old black boy Allen »Ali« Brooks, Reynolds portrays the microcosm Ali lives in. Despite the difficult circumstances, Ali’s courage and optimism triumph over every threat and feeling of hopelessness. In his début, Reynolds skillfully reflects young adult speech with its fast rhythms, special vocabulary and unique »groove«. Together with the author Brendan Kiely, in »All American Boys« (2015) Reynolds describes a case of police violence in the USA from the perspectives of a black and a white teenager. In this politically relevant book, the authors show the deep divisions in their country, where everyday life is marked by racism and arbitrariness, and they force both the protagonists as well as the reader to take a clear position. In »The Boy in the Black Suit« (2015) Reynolds tackles the subject of death: after 17-year-old Matthew loses his mother, he seeks distraction through work and ends up at a funeral home of all places. By observing the pain suffered by the families while at the funerals, Matthew understands that he is not alone in his grief. Meeting Love, an orphaned and grieving girl, helps him realize that he needs to find a way out of his resignation. Reynolds’ most recent work, »Long Way Down« (2017), is a young adult novel in verse that tells the story of a mere sixty-second trip in an elevator: 15-year-old Will’s brother has been murdered and Will enters the elevator with his brother’s gun and begins to descend. Relatives, friends, and even the spirits of the murder victims join him on different floors and all of their voices blend into a chorus disputing »The Rules«, the unspoken law of revenge their neighborhood adheres to.
Reynolds received the John Steptoe New Talent Award (2015), honorable mentions for the Coretta Scott King Award (2016, 2017, 2018), the Newbery Medal (2018) and the Printz Award (2018). The author lives in Washington, D.C.